24 February, 2010

Work vs. Play

I glanced at the stack of unread books on my desk (which is, mercifully, not as large as it has been in the past) and thought about the difference in approach to reading between myself and my friend who is something of a bookworm, and an idea came to me. See, for me, reading is work. I enjoy it, but I have to commit myself to doing it or it never gets done. On the contrary, my friend reads all the time, and while I can only speculate, I presume that to him, reading is something he is quite naturally inclined to do, and to him it probably feels more like play.

Regardless of the accuracy of that last part, the idea is this: that work is things you have to force yourself to do, whereas play is things you do enthusiastically without the slightest need for coercion (whether from yourself or anyone else). Now, I'm not talking about work as in work for pay, and it's true that what is work by this definition can be something you actually enjoy doing. For example, I enjoy playing guitar. But I still have to push myself to pick it up and start practicing, or else it will never happen (I know from personal experience). I enjoy doing it, but it's still work to me.

Play, on the other hand, occurs spontaneously. It's probably what you do when you're supposed to be doing the things that are work. You don't necessarily have to enjoy it, either, although I think in most cases you do, at least on some level, or else you wouldn't be so inclined to do it. I think that, for me, grabbing my camera and taking photographs is often play, even though it is at times strenuous, and even frustrating. But it comes naturally, and I have fun doing it. Processing those photos later, though, is work.

Now, by this construction, a thing could change from being work to being play (or vice versa), depending on a number of factors, including conditionals, and something as unpredictable as one's mood. Writing up a blog entry like this one is play for me, because all I have to do is follow my inspiration, and it feels good to get these thoughts down, which, while still in my head, are and have been practically screaming at me to get them out. (I also feel compelled to mention that I'm so moved by these thoughts' desires to be written down that I had to interrupt my work - practicing guitar - just to tend to them). But, remove the inspiration, or apply certain guidelines such as forcing me to write about something I'm not interested in, and this activity would quickly become work (again, personal experience :p).

Here are a couple more examples. Take eating: having a pizza dinner when I'm starving would be play, whereas consuming meatloaf [especially] when I'm not really hungry would be work. Sleep could be play at the end of an exhausting day, or work if you're not tired and only have to go to bed because you know you need to get up early in the morning.

If you think about it, a person who is more prone to consider things as play would likely have a more enjoyable, less grueling life, whereas a person more prone to think of things as work would have a rather hard time of it. Apply that thought to specific activities: obviously, a person who considers playing guitar to be play is gonna have a huge advantage over a person like me, who has to constantly struggle with it. Learning things on guitar takes an exorbitant amount of effort for me. The payoff is huge, but it's still a lot of effort. Learning other things, however - like reading up on a topic of interest on the internet - can very often be play to me. I imagine to someone else the same thing would be work.

In these terms, being "bored" is simply a matter of being in a state in which everything is work!

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